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UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE

09 May 11. Military users will be able to get real-time high-definition video, view infrared imagery, use radar and even listen in on communications signals – all at the same time – using a new intelligence-gathering aircraft system unveiled today by Northrop Grumman Corporation. Firebird offers a large internal payload bay and an ability to operate multiple intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and communications payloads simultaneously through a universal interface. The system is designed to be flown as a manned or unmanned aircraft. As lead for the Firebird program, Northrop Grumman developed the unmanned systems architecture, control and mission systems. The company chose Scaled Composites to design, build and test the aircraft – with first flight occurring just 12 months after the initial concept discussions. Firebird’s universal interface is similar to plugging a memory stick into a personal computer that is automatically recognized without needing to load additional software. From inception, Firebird was designed to be flown as a manned or unmanned aircraft and can be quickly modified for either option. Firebird is set for an operational demonstration in an optionally-piloted configuration from May 23 – June 3, 2011, during Empire Challenge 2011, a military exercise run by U.S. Joint Forces Command.

11 May 11. An MoU was signed today between Cassidian on behalf of EADS Deutschland GmbH and Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc. (TAI) to establish a close collaboration in the Talarion programme. The MoU was signed during an official ceremony at the 10th International Defence Industry Fair (IDEF) held in Istanbul. Signed in the presence of Murad Bayar, The Honourable Undersecretary for Defence Industries and Thomas Kossendey, Germany’s Deputy Defence Minister, this new agreement further reinforces the presence of Turkey in Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) multinational collaborative programmes. Talarion is the European programme for a next-generation Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) advanced Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) to fulfil the requirements initially placed by France, Germany and Spain for future unmanned long endurance surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The novel aspect of this approach is a modular design and the integration of the UAV in a network-enabled operations scenario. Turkey has always advocated to participate in this major European programme with the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) agreeing significant investment and integration in the Talarion prototype programme team by major companies of the Turkish industry led by TAI (Turkish Aerospace Industries, Inc.).

06 May 11. Last year, the U.S. Army bought ten Switchblade UAVs for testing and evaluation. The tests were successful, and now the army wants to buy and deploy them. The only problem is tight budgets and the cost of this one-use system. Depending on the number ordered, each Switchblade round (the UAV in its storage/launch container) will still cost over $10,000. If it becomes popular with the troops, demand for more would have to be filled, and that could put a dent in the shrinking army budget. The Switchblade is a one kilogram (2.2 pound) expendable (used only once) UAV that can be equipped with explosives. The Switchblade is launched from its shipping and storage tube, at which point wings flip out, a battery powered propeller starts spinning and a vidcam begins broadcasting images to the controller. The Switchblade is operated using the same gear the larger (two kg) Raven UAV employs. The Switchblade can be launched from the 70mm rocket tubes used on army helicopters. Moving at up to a kilometer a minute, the Switchblade can stay in the air for 20-40 minutes (depending on whether or not it is armed with explosives.) The armed version can be flown to a target and detonated, having about the same explosive effect as a hand grenade. Thus the Switchblade could be useful for ground troops, to get at an enemy taki

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